Soldiers On Standby To Get Fuel To Pumps
Hundreds of soldiers are being lined up to stand in for fuel tanker drivers threatening industrial action next month.
The Army and police are on standby to ensure deliveries do not grind to a halt because of disputes over rising diesel and petrol prices.
Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said the Government stood "ready to act" if members of the Unite union go on strike.
The results of a strike ballot of 2,000 tanker drivers is expected later, with a view to begin the walkout from April 3.
Mr Maude appealed to the union and employers, including DHL and BP, to come to an agreement to avert industrial action.
But the Government has put in place contingency plans that could see soldiers being called in to drive tankers and police preventing blockades.
Mr Maude said: "We are calling on the trade union Unite and the employers involved to work together to reach an agreement that will avert industrial action.
"Widespread strike action affecting fuel supply at our supermarkets, garages and airports could cause disruption across the country.
"The general public should not and must not suffer from this dispute and strike action is manifestly not the answer.
"Although we are pushing for an agreement, we have learnt the lessons of the past and stand ready to act to minimise disruption to motorists, to industry and, in particular, to our emergency services, in the event of a strike."
Unite announced last month that it would ballot members working for seven major fuel distribution firms on whether to launch a campaign of industrial action.
The union warned that strikes could hit petrol supplies at supermarkets, garages and airports across the country.
The 2,000 drivers account for 90% of those supplying petrol to UK forecourts.
Unite said there had been "unrelenting attacks" on drivers' terms and conditions, adding that it had been trying to establish a forum to agree industry - wide best practice on issues like safety and training.